"We’re hearing stories about associations that are doing some pretty dramatic downsizing, and freezing or reducing salaries, in order to offset reduced revenue streams," says Michael Olson, CAE, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of Association Executives.
But you can relax, says Dawn Penfold, president of New York City-based The Meeting Candidate Network (www.meetingjobs.com). "I’ve seen the downsizing of meetings staff beginning in the corporate market, but the good news is that I haven’t seen even an inkling of it on the association end," she says. "Because departments are still a revenue source, their jobs are relatively secure." And, while association planners are unlikely to get a huge salary increase or bonus next year, they can expect their pay to remain relatively stable, with standard increases, she says.
However, Penfold warns, this is no time to coast on your job security. "The recessionary economy is a good excuse to lay off someone who is perceived as not pulling his or her weight," she says. "This is prime time for association planners to document their return on investment, to prove their worth." After all, there are more than a few newly laid-off corporate planners out there who’d be more than happy to take your job. "While associations may not pay as well as corporations, they are more stable," she says.
But are they really more stable? Not according to Joan Eisenstodt, president of Eisenstodt Associates LLC, Washington, D.C. "The greatest impact we’ve begun to see is layoffs of association meeting planners. Once ‘layoff-proof,’ they are not now. Association paid andleadership are following a dangerous corporate model: If money appears to be tight, cut the meetings department."
She says this will mean that association meetings will be planned by people who don’t know how to do it, and who will have little or no guidance from experienced planners. "Hotels and other suppliers are gong to be in a tough position of having to negotiate with more volunteers, many of whom believe prices are still around $89 per room per night, who have not heard of, and who will want all the perks."